Don't start tuning out for Christmas just yet - While your competitors are winding down for the holidays, these 12 tips will ensure you make the most of the festive season and start the new year with a boost...
1. Reach out to old contacts that you may have neglected during the year. This is a perfect time to send a simple note or a card with a friendly greeting and opening the way to a follow up call to catch up.
2. Don't squander your Christmas cards! - Remember that Christmas cards, just like any customer contact, are a form of marketing. And they're a particularly effective one as they are far more likely to make it past the usual gatekeepers, and actually be opened and read by your target. This doesn't mean you emblazon them with all your product benefits and a cut-out voucher, but it does give you a great opportunity to subtly 'remind and reinforce'...
3. Reach out to your most elusive prospects while the guard is away! When the PA has broken for Christmas early, or the office staff have left to go late night shopping, you may find you are able to ring directly through to your toughest targets.
4. Be your customers' solution to unspent 2012 budgets - Not applicable to everyone and you will need to do your groundwork, but businesses operating under a 'use it or lose it' annual budgetary cycle may be very receptive at this time of year, especially if they can make the commitment now and accrue over to next year. It's a good way for you to start your new year with business on the books.
5. Arrange your new year meetings now. Amongst all this activity, make sure you book in those meetings. Don't leave it as loose as 'catching up in the new year' or you will be losing all that ground you have gained with your pre-Christmas efforts.
6. Make the most of seasonal networking opportunities. Many businesses and networking forums hold end of year events. This provides a relaxed setting to show the human side of your business and to form new relationships. (But definitely not a time for the hard sell!).
7. Host an event. It doesn't need to be anything grand or expensive. Invite your contacts to an early evening glass of mulled wine and a minced pie to thank them for their custom during the year. If you're not so confident that you will attract the numbers then focus on an intimate and personal thank you to key contacts, and perhaps hold it at a local bar or cafe where there will be other people present (to stop you awkwardly standing in an empty room together!) Its not too late even now to set up something simple. Many people deliberately leave their diaries flexible at this time of year, so may be less likely to be booked up.
8. Check the seasonal opening periods of your key contacts so you can mirror them. Make a point of letting them know you'll be there for them if needed (especially if your competitors won't be!)
9. Put in place out-of-hours contact contingency should your key customers need you. This shows commitment and that you operate around your clients' needs not just yours, and is another good opportunity to make contact with your customers and prospects.
10. Don't forget your team. Just a few simple gestures can make a real difference to employee engagement, and create positive sentiment as the team reflect during the holidays:
11. Plan out now, your kick-off strategy for the new year. What will you do on your first day back? In your first week back? Plan out the business-boosting activities that will give you a running start to the new year (and then make sure you do stick to them when you return!)
12. Finally, use your own down-time wisely. It can be tiring, and sometimes lonely, running a business. Make sure you take the time to unwind and catch up with family and friends. Allow yourself this, safe in the knowledge that you have a killer plan to start the new year with direction and energy.
Thank you for your custom, and interest, and contributions during the year. I look forward to exchanging ideas, building communities, creating excellence and otherwise working with you in 2014!
By Kevin Sheldrake
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